Through a partnership with the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Honors students of Christina Fisanick, Associate Professor of English at California University of Pennsylvania, have learned to create digital stories using archival materials from collections throughout western Pennsylvania and the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. You may remember the videos her students created last fall about Earl Oglebay and his contributions to the agriculture industry, the Oglebay glass collection and Sweeney Lead Glass Punch Bowl, the Benwood Mine Disaster, West Virginia Independence Hall and its role in the Civil War, and West Liberty’s Rare Books Collection.
“Most history lovers are familiar with Ken Burns’ epic documentaries, including The Dustbowl and Baseball. His abilities to make still photos and two-dimensional objects come alive are world renowned. Now, even Luddites can achieve similar, engaging effects with archival materials using a much shorter medium called digital storytelling,” Fisanick wrote when her students came to Wheeling last year. “Started as a grassroots movement to help people who might otherwise go unheard tell and share their stories, digital storytelling has become a vehicle for change around the world. To create a digital story, the storyteller needs a computer, iPad, or Smartphone, free digital storytelling software, a microphone, and digital images. The aim is to write a script that can be told in about three to five minutes. Once created, the digital story can be shared on the Internet, especially through social media, which broadens the audience reach exponentially.”
This past spring, Fisanick’s students traveled back to the Northern Panhandle and down into Marshall County. Archiving Wheeling is pleased to once again have the honor of showcasing their digital stories. We hope you enjoy their unique takes on some well-known and beloved subjects from our neighbors to the south — Fostoria Glass, the Strand Theater, Grave Creek Mound, the Cockayne Farmstead, the West Virginia State Penitentiary, and Marx Toys.
The Art of Fostoria Glass Forgery
by Amber Brantley, Noor Khan, and Jason Leone
When we first walked into Fostoria Glass Museum, we were taken aback by the enormous collection of gorgeous pieces of handmade and blown glass. It became apparent very quickly, in just this modest two story house, that there were potentially a thousand stories we could tell showcasing the glass, the factory, or the museum. When first entering the museum, we were awestruck by the amount of glass in just the first room. Upstairs visitors can see even more pieces of glass, along with tools, posters, pictures, and other artifacts. The real gem was the basement area that is generally off limits to the public. Factory equipment lined the walls in an area currently in progress to showcase what the inside of the now-demolished factory would’ve looked like. This is where we finally found our feature story: the coin glass.
When we learned about the coin glass pattern and how the government banned the original coin glass, we knew we had something special to share with our audience. The difficult part was taking this story and weaving an intricate tale to keep our audience’s attention. This is when our professor, Dr. Fisanick, stepped in and gave us a brilliant idea—to use our focus on the coin glass but also to look at the forgery of all the Fostoria glass through history. This pattern of glass has its own interesting tale that viewers will learn through our video.
The process of creating our feature video proved to be daunting. Obtaining the information about the history and forgery of Fostoria was more difficult than expected. With the tips and advice of both Cassie Clark, co-curator of Fostoria Glass Museum, and Dr. Fisanick, we created a video we are all proud of and want to share. The whole experience was well worth the time and effort put into the project, and digital storytelling has opened up a new door for us on its own.
We urge anyone who finds our video and story interesting to visit the Fostoria Glass Museum in Moundsville, West Virginia. We promise you will be just as amazed as we were.
Restoring the Strand Theatre
by Christopher Ciesielka and Alexis Klaprot
Careful consideration and planning was necessary in order to create our feature video about Moundsville, West Virginia’s Strand Theatre. When collaborating to inform others about one of Marshall County’s most historic buildings, it was important to ensure that the story we were telling was the one that deserved to be told. After visiting the theatre, we immediately realized that the focus should be on what has happened to the theatre in recent years. The Strand closed in 1996, sat empty for four years, and was reopened in December of 2000 when the Strand Theatre Preservation Society (STPS) took ownership of the building. It was surprisingly easy to focus on what the STPS has done for the theatre. So much has been made possible due to the dedication of these individuals that there was an overabundance of information for us to work with.
The first step that was necessary to put our feature video together before visiting the Strand was carrying out some preliminary research. We found an online biography of M.A. Sybert, who was the original owner of the theatre. Once we visited the theatre and took a private tour, we realized that there would be plenty of on-site material to incorporate into our project.
Armed with a notebook and a camera, we were ready to gather as much information as possible. Prior to this visit, my heart was set on researching the history of the theatre and telling the story from a historical perspective. Once we arrived, we were so mind-blown by the amount of work that has been put into the theatre in recent years that it seemed almost vital to deviate from our original plan and focus on a more modern story instead. The building is simply beautiful. Aesthetically, it looks quite similar to how the theatre looked in its prime during the early-to-mid-1900’s, so it managed to magnificently combine historical and modern features. We chose to showcase how the Strand retained much of its historic significance, while still changing with the times to accommodate modern needs.
Our final step in the process was creation of the video, which did not prove to be as much of a challenge as we anticipated. The script was easy to create after visiting the theatre, and we had plenty of pictures of its new modern amenities to accompany the narration. The only struggle we faced was a lack of historic photos, but we were able to compensate for that with an abundance of modern photos and music from the time period when the theatre originally opened. Overall, the video came together quite nicely and we felt it was an accurate representation of the importance of the Strand Theatre to the people of the Ohio Valley.
Grave Creek Mound
by Steven Shrenkel, Austin Owens, and Jacob Rice
During the 2016 Spring semester at California University of Pennsylvania, our group was given the immense and challenging job of creating a digital story that featured a certain site located near Moundsville, West Virginia. This demanding assignment was given to us by our Honors Composition II Professor, Dr. Fisanick. When we were told of our task and options for sites to research, it was extremely clear to us which site we would choose. Our chosen site for this process was Moundsville’s Pride and Joy, the Grave Creek Mound. The digital story that we were to produce would be a video that needed to shape a narrative of something unique and interesting about the Grave Creek Mound. This would be molded through narration, pictures, and music that would eventually turn into a work of art.
Settling on a focus for our feature video was a difficult and enlightening process. We went into Moundsville with honestly no sense of what we wanted the focal point of our story to be. However, while there, we got more information on Moundsville’s towering giant than we could have ever imagined. This crucial information was all thanks to our collaboration with Andrea Keller, the Delf Norona Museum’s Cultural Program Coordinator. After hearing about all of the potential possibilities, we came together and decided on exactly what our story would entail: the unique and fascinating story of how Joseph Tomlinson discovered the mound and the history that followed.
Tomlinson’s discovery occurred while he was hunting in the woods and just happened to stumble upon a great mound of earth that would later become an iconic symbol for the town of Moundsville. Our feature video plays upon this story and also goes very in depth about the different events, proceedings, and excavations that occurred to the Grave Creek Mound. It’s truly astonishing how far we’ve come by the ways of technology. From actually digging into the mound and marring its integrity to using remote sensing to peer into the mound without ever having to pick up a shovel, technology has allowed scientists to do things that nobody had ever thought possible.
Completing this feature video was difficult, but also remarkably rewarding. All of us learned a great amount about the mound’s history and ourselves. While learning about the background of the mound and town of Moundsville, we were reminded of all the trials and tribulations that come with working on a project like this. Setting up appropriate times to meet, operating the software, and finding the perfect balance between all the ingredients that go into a digital story were all challenges that we had to overcome.
The one thing that was exceedingly refreshing was finding a town whose people openly celebrate their history and culture. Unfortunately, our generation takes this rich history for granted. Not many of us take the time to understand how things came about, and why it’s important. The emergence of technology encourages others to explore history right in their communities. We hope that our produced story will not only be a valuable asset for the Delf Norona Museum, but also serve as a bridge between past, present, and future generations.
by Vanessa Martik, Maria Martik, and Rebecca Wockley
After adapting to the struggles of our first semester of college, the Honors Composition 150 class was ready to take on Honors Composition 250. As most of us from the fall semester returned to the spring semester class, the ones who did not return missed out on a remarkable historical learning experience. The fall semester of 2015 brought great opportunities as we traveled to Oglebay Park to construct digital stories of different historical aspects of Wheeling, West Virginia. Our group, for example, specifically focused on the historic Sweeney punch bowl. This semester, our class was given the opportunity to travel to Marshall County, West Virginia, the hometown of our beloved professor, Dr. Fisanick. From there we were separated into further groups as we were in the fall semester and were able to choose from several historical sites within Marshall County. Our group had researched all of the historical sites and decided to choose the one with the most emotional significance, the Cockayne Farmstead.
Before visiting the Cockayne Farmstead, the three of us, not being aware of where the house was actually located, looked at older pictures and assumed that it was located on a large piece of farming land. We learned shortly after driving around in circles for ten minutes that we were wrong. The Farmstead, located right across from John Marshall high school and set on a local highway, was the farthest thing from being on a farm. What used to be a large field used for the Cockayne’s to herd sheep, was now a very small piece of land surrounded by commercial development.
When discussing our ideas for our digital story, the three of us agreed that we would tell a ghost story or an aspect of the Underground Railroad that was once located there. Our thoughts were changed, though, after working with AmeriCorps service provider and executive director of the Farmstead, Elizabeth James. We decided to tell the story of the Cockayne family, an average family who made their mark on Marshall County, West Virginia by preserving the history of the home in the most natural way they could. Learning about the history of each Cockayne family member and how each had a special talent really drew us. Each of the daughters of Samuel A.J. Cockayne were able to paint, play various instruments, and write beautiful pieces of sheet music and poetry. Samuel A., the last Cockayne to live in the house, preserved most of the history of the house and eventually only used the two back rooms of the house to live in.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Farmstead, to us, was looking at all of the old pictures that they had kept for numerous generations. It was a great opportunity to see how photos have evolved throughout the years, and it was even more interesting to connect the family history of each member by looking at the similarities of family members from the 1950s until the present day with the last family member. Seeing how this average family gained so much recognition for the work that each generation had done with sheep herding was very impressive.
Stepping inside the Cockayne Farmstead was like a trip back in time when one family could rise to great heights through perseverance and the desire to be the best at what they did. Their stories prove that anything is achievable through hard work.
West Virginia Penitentiary
by Chris Carabotta, Felix Rivera, and Danica Pils
At the end of the Fall 2015 semester at California University of Pennsylvania, Christopher Carabotta—my partner from last year—and I were told that we might have an opportunity to work at a shut-down penitentiary for Honors Composition II. We were stoked to hear that news and immediately started thinking along the lines of the paranormal. After all, penitentiaries and prisons are hotspots for ghostly activities and it would be extremely easy to dig into the history of the facility and craft a story on our findings. However, the West Virginia State Penitentiary had much more to offer aside from paranormal stories than either Chris or I could have ever expected.
The beginning of the next semester came around, introducing a few more faces into our classroom. My one classmate from a prior class— Danica Pils—joined our group of two, and together the three of us were to explore the depths of the West Virginia State Penitentiary. After talking to Dr. Fisanick about what we initially wanted to focus our story on, we eventually came to the conclusion that a ghost story would be too cliché and that there were other stories to explore. On February 25, 2016, the whole class received a special night tour of the penitentiary, which highlighted both the paranormal activity of the prison and the life of the prisoners within the facility. It was a very tough living environment, especially considering the minuscule cells and constant threats faced by inmates each and every day. As the tour progressed, I started to formulate different ideas regarding a feature film on the prisoners, especially when we were introduced to the lifestyle of the Aryan Brotherhood, which was a prominent gang during much of the prison’s history.
The day after our classroom tour of the prison, Danica, Chris and I went back to the penitentiary during daylight hours to conduct independent research. Upon our arrival, we were introduced to two former correctional officers of the West Virginia State Penitentiary. Chuck Ghent and Maggie Gray had two very different personalities; Chuck was more laid-back while Maggie was extremely lively and vibrant. We talked to each of them separately for over two hours and learned much more about the penitentiary than we thought we would. After the interviews, we were certain that we should focus our film on the lives of correctional officers in the penitentiary. The way we saw it, few people ever think twice about officers when it comes to prisons, focusing more on how those who are imprisoned make a living and interact with one another. When we got back to the university, we immediately started production of our film and formulating ideas on the best possible way to convey the level of uncertainty and mental strength it would take to be a correctional officer in such a harsh environment.
The final results of our research and dedication to the stories we produced were incredible. The feature film was very well received by numerous people, and I personally had many long-lasting conversations with the people around me regarding how we created the story that we did. Projects like these really influence the communities you visit and work with. It opens your eyes to the importance of local and regional history, and why it is crucial that extensive work is done to preserve these stories and pieces of history that could potentially be forgotten. Digital storytelling is a great method of exposing history and boosting awareness of events within communities and should be taught in a more widespread fashion. After having learned about so many aspects of Moundsville history from the West Virginia State Penitentiary to the Marx Toy Factory to the Grave Creek Burial Mound, we strongly encourage readers to become more active within their communities and learn more about the importance of local history. In the words of Heinz HCAP coordinator Mr. Robert Stakeley, “When it comes to history, whether it’s local, regional, or national history, everything has value.”
by Jessica Spano and Ellyn Gazda
As students in the Honors Program at California University of Pennsylvania, we knew little about the town of Moundsville, West Virginia. As we began our research, we realized that it was filled with a variety of wonderful historical sites, all bringing something unique to Moundsville.
Our chosen historical site is the Marx Toy Museum, which sadly closed its doors in June 2016. Louis Marx and Company was once the biggest name in the toy industry in the 20th century. They produced over one-third of all the toys in the United States. After researching the toy company, we soon realized that there were so many angles we could take on the digital story we were going to produce. The museum creator, Francis Turner, was very knowledgeable on all things Louis Marx. He helped us to narrow down our focus for the digital story. In the end, we decided to tell the story of how Louis Marx and his friends and employees all helped shape the toy industry and left marks on the company itself. Louis Marx changed history and the lives of millions, and we wanted to show that in our story.
The biggest thing we learned was the power of research before we had visited the site. We knew next to nothing about Moundsville before we began our project. We immersed ourselves in its history and learned so much about a small town that many have never heard of before. Moundsville is significant to not just West Virginia, but to the entire country, and we are glad to have been given the opportunity to learn about and showcase what Moundsville has to offer. Moundsville is a town where so much happened to change the state and country, and we really wanted to show just what an impact the company had on the town, and what an impact that town had on the United States and the toy industry.
Louis Marx, the artists, and the workers employed there all left a mark on the history of Moundsville and the history of toy making itself. We feel truly honored that we had the opportunity to learn about this man and his company, as well as about Moundsville and West Virginia as a whole. Thanks to the impact Moundsville had on us, we will always remember the value of research as we continue our education. We both had an amazing time working on this project and learning about the museum, and can only hope another chance like this is given to us in our future time here at California University of Pennsylvania.